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This review is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

SUBTLETIES AND MARVELS The Poetry of Chess, ed. Andrew Waterman (Anvil) £4.95
Supernatural Poetry, ed. Michael Hayes (Calder) £3.95

The Poetry of Chess is a collection of 'poetry . . . that uses chess . . . figuratively to express human themes, together with a few poems about the game itself'. So most of the book reads as a continuously shifting extended metaphor, an exploration of human jealousies, strategies, quarrels with fate and love affairs in terms of 'the playe most gloryous/Which is so sotill and so mervaylous'. Andrew Waterman's introduction is also pretty 'sotill and mervaylous', an enthralling exploration of the analogies between chess and artistic creativity together with anecdotes from the lives of the grand-masters (clearly a batty bunch). The poets range from Lydgate to Lowell and many surprises and delights appear along the way, including sizable extracts from Goldsmith's translation of Vida's Scacchia Ludus (chess between Hermes and Apollo, Olympian sulks and cheating) and a piece from the anonymous fifteenth-century romance 'Guy of Warwick' that has Guy playing the 'Sowdan of Perce' in perhaps the most annihilating end-game recorded,


On hys fete he did stonde
And toke the chekur in hys honde.
He smote Sowdan under the ere:
He felle to grounde and dyed there.


The book has few disappointments, though Sir William Jones was on this showing not nearly as good a poet as scholar and John Fuller's 'The Most Difficult Position', though fittingly clever, has the not infrequent Fuller failing of seeming to go on for a very long time indeed. One ...


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